Monday, September 22, 2008

2008 RAW with Lora Leigh

by Donna MacMeans

Huntington, West Virginia may be known as the home to Marshall's Thundering Herd, but the thundering herd this last weekend were the romance readers and writers that descended upon the Pullman Plaza hotel for 2008 Readers Appreciation Weekend, otherwise known as RAW. Lora Leigh hosted this annual event of twenty five authors and one hundred and seventy five readers.

The event kicked off with a slumber party Friday night. We're talking sexy jammies, comfortable sweats, lots of pizza, and a DJ who kept the dancefloor rocking.

After breakfast on Saturday, the participants had a private booksigning. I stood on my chair, a shaky proposition, to bring you this photo of the crowd. I met lots of dedicated romance readers from all over the country - Louisana, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia... even one woman who traveled from Germany with her husband just for this event.
Here's (left to right) authors Erin McCarthy, Jules Bennett and Lucy Monroe.

After the signing I took a short break to explore outside the hotel, and discovered the road in front of the hotel had been closed off for a chili cookoff. (You can see the roadblocks barriers in the above pic.) A fantastic band provided wonderful loud music that followed me as I shopped in some of the unique area stores. Not sure why everyone wasn't dancing around the town fountain. It was a perfect day for it.

I headed back to the hotel for the dinner/masquerade dance Saturday night. I saw some fun, imaginative costumes -- but not on me. I just wore a mask and, of course, the hat. Author Dianne Castell, however, made a perfect Paula Deen - don't you think? Harlequin author Kay Stockham dressed in a fabulous blue feather mask.

Lots of baskets were raffled off to enthusiastic readers for the benefit of charity. The romance bandits contributed and Amy was the lucky winner. I need to thank Julia Bennett for Amy's photo as my camera battery died - darn technology.
Another signing for the public on Sunday and then we headed back for home. I had so much fun and met some great people. Can't wait for next year which will again be held at the Pullman Plaza in Huntington West Virginia. The event sells out quickly so if you're interested in attending, watch for details on Lora Leigh's website

This year, I've attended the Romantic Times convention in April, Lori Foster & Dianne Castell's reader event in June, and now RAW. Have to say - romance readers are the best. They're fun, friendly, knowledgeable and avid, avid readers.

Have you attended a reader's event? Have you wanted to? Tell me about it. What did you like the best? If you haven't been to an event - tell me about the costume you'd have worn to the masquerade ball. I'm always looking for ideas and RT will be upon us again in April. I'm offering a Tshirt (large) and a tote bag from RAW for one lucky commentor.


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...


Aunty is back from her cruise!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Looks like you have a GREAT TIME! Our local chapter put on a Readers Luncheon last year and it was the first and so far only one I've attended. But I'm looking forward to attending many more in the not-too-distant future.

As for costumes, why Aunty would be a mean and mysterious Romance Bandita of course! And don't forget my Golden feathered pal.


Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Aunty Cindy.

Hi Donna,
I've never been to a reader's event. I would love to attend one someday. It would amazing to meet and chat with the authors. I'm reading a book right now where the heroine is dressed as Artemis. I think that would be a great costume. It shouldn't be that hard to buy a Grecian dress.

Anna Campbell said...

AC, congrats on the rooster! Nice to have you back! Hope the cruise was huge fun.

Donna, speaking of huge fun, this RAW thing sounds like the bee's knees. I'd love to come one day. We're in the throes of planning the first Australian Romance Reader Convention which takes place in Melbourne next February. It's sort of going to be RT downunder from what I can gather. Already there's a huge number of authors coming and by the look of the loop, the readers are getting excited too.

flchen1 said...

Woohoo, AC! What's the GR up to today? Any costumes?

Donna, I haven't attend a readers' event yet, but they sound terrifically fun! I'd love the chance to meet authors and hang out with fellow fans! But costumes, I'm not so good with those... I'd definitely have to throw myself on the mercy of you more creative folks for some ideas!

Helen said...

Hello Aunty Cindy welcome back it is good to see you ! and to get the GR well done

Donna sounds like a really fun party, I have never been to anything like this before but as Anna has mentioned there is an Australian Romance Readers convention on in Melbourne Feb 09 and I am going I have paid my registration booked the hotel and CAN'T WAIT I am so excited the loop that has been started with the people going is growing and I seem to be spending hours on the emails checking them all this is going to be one fantastic party and Anna's book To Tempt The Devil is going to be launched and I will be there can you tell I am ecstatic.
I am so looking forward to meeting authors and other romance readers who love reading like I do.

Have Fun

Gannon Carr said...

Congrats, AC! Welcome back. Hope you had a fantastic cruise!

I love reader conferences. I went to Celebrate Romance--and finally met PJ there!--this past February in Columbia, SC. It was a wonderful conference--really intimate. Readers and writers were able to really get to know each other. I had an absolute ball and was able to get to meet some of my favorite authors! What's not to love?!

CR is held early each year, but they change the location (east coast one year, then west coast, then central US). That way more people have the chance to attend. This coming year it will be in Portland, OR. I'm not sure if I'll be able to attend, but I hope to go again in the future.

Next month, PJ and I, along with several of our friends from RNTV, will be attending Moonlight and Magnolias in Atlanta. Can't wait to meet some more of my favorite authors, including some of the Banditas!

Terry Odell said...

Never been to a reader's confernce, only writer's. I understand Suzanne Brockmann has special getaway weekends from time to time, which sounds like something I'd enjoy--numbers are limited. I'm going to my first RT in April (seeing how it's about 3 miles from my house). But I'm not a crowd person or a party person, so I don't know about all those late-night costume events. I might just sneak home and 'visit' hubby.

PJ said...

Sounds like a lot of fun, Donna! My only reader get-together has been the CR conference that Gannon posted about. It's a wonderfully intimate gathering of romance authors and readers with the focus on the readers. There were no costumes involved (thankfully) but there was a wildly entertaining game of Romance Jeopardy led by Jade Lee and Elizabeth Hoyt, a PJ party hosted by Jacquie D'Alessandro, Stephanie Boyd and others, a leisurely breakfast with Cathy Maxwell, an afternoon chatting with Sabrina Jeffries and Vicki Lewis Thompson, dining on Carolina BBQ with Karen Hawkins, interesting workshops and a raffle of fabulous gift baskets. Best of all, there was the opportunity to meet other romance novel lovers like Gannon!

PJ said...

Welcome back, AC! Congrats on nabbing the GR!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Donna! And congrats, AC, on being home & nabbing the GR your first day back!

I have never gone to a readers' conference myself, though I understand they are something to behold. All the costumes & cover models... They sound like a fabulous time. What was it like from an author's perspective, to be in a group of people who were there only to enjoy what you do rather than pick your brain for craft ideas/writing tips/query & synopsis pointers?

Donna MacMeans said...

Welcome home AC! You were missed! Where were you cruising this time? Any fun stories to share?

Congrats on nabbing the rooster. Looks like you signed on just after I did my last check on the blog and then snuch off to bed. One thing about reader's conferences - they wear you out! It takes me a while to recover.

Donna MacMeans said...

Jane -

Bravo on Artemis! LOL - I should have thought of that, especially as I'm just coming out of immersion from the sequel to Mrs. Brimley. Heck, I should have nabbed the bedsheet from the hotel and improvised.

Donna MacMeans said...

Anna -

An Australian Readers Conference? That sounds fantastic! I must admit, I was astounded to to see such a strong romance reader audience in Australia - don't know why - it's just something I wasn't aware of until I published. You guys are going to have an absolute GREAT time.

As you are in the throes of planning - anyone have suggestions to share? One thing I especially enjoyed from Lori Foster's event is assigning writers to various tables and then rotating them throughout the day so that writers get to spend time with readers. Sometimes the writers tend to clump together because we know each other and readers are hesitent to interrupt. Spreading the authors out this way makes them more available. I like it, at least.

Donna MacMeans said...

fichen1 -

We're going to have to get you and Jane to a readers conference. You'll have so much fun. I must admit the costume aspect was a bit intimidating at first, but I learned that many people skip that aspect and just come as they are. Still - it's all part of the fantasy of romance. Now that Halloween is upon us, I'm going to keep my eye out for a good costume. Hah! It's just not for trick or treat anymore.

Donna MacMeans said...

Helen -

You are going to have a ball! What fabulous timing, Anna, to launch Tempt the Devil. I think you'll need to figure out a way to do a simulcast so we all can participate.

Helen, you wild thing! You're going to be rocking the continent. Those conference loops are wonderful, aren't they? But they should can eat up time. It's a bit of heaven & hell all mixed together.

Dina said...

I have not been to any readers events, I'd love too, but things can't always do the way you want too.

I have worn a Renaissence dress and mask.

Donna MacMeans said...

Gannon -

I LOVE Celebrate Romance! I so missed not going to the one in Columbia, I swore I wouldn't miss another - until I heard that the 2009 CR will be in Portland. LOL - that's a bit of a haul for this tax accountant during busy season. Still, Lucy Monroe has me half convinced to go anyway.

Donna MacMeans said...

Terry -

Hey, I'll be at RT in 2009 as well!
You must stay for the nightly balls, especially the Fairie ball and the Vampire ball - if only to see the decorations and the costumes. Some people go all out! I'm not sure I'll attempt to wear the corset again. Some of the resulting red creases are just now fading. We should definitely plan to hook up in Orlando.

Donna MacMeans said...

PJ - I'm so bummed that I missed CR this year. I went to the 2007 CR in Kansas City and remember the wall of raffle baskets. I believe Rosemary Laurey suggested that CR be held in Columbia every year. The weather was beautiful (we had snow flurries in Kansas City), the attendance was up, I believe. I'm inclined to believe she's got a point. Do you know the dates for CR this year?

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Oh, this sounds like such fun! I wish they had something like this on the West Coast.

PJ said...

Donna, the 2009 CR Conference will be Feb. 27 - March 1 at The Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon. We missed you in Columbia!

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Susan! Well, my dear, you probably will be going to readers conference once your book comes out. Fans will be lining up for your autograph (I'll be standing there with them!)

A readers conference is very different than a writers conference. The writer's conference is all about being professional, devoting oneself to the craft, and basically learning.

A reader's conference is like chocolate without the calories. Pure Fantasy and Fun - and very validating for writers. I'm always shocked and delighted when someone asks me to sign a book or have a picture taken. God's special gift to the world must be romance readers. I've never met a more generous, fun-loving, happier group - especially when they are surrounding by books!

Donna MacMeans said...

Dina -

Do you know I sit here and wait for that butterfly to flap its wings? LOL - love it.

A renaissence dress would be great. Not sure how it would work on the dance floor, but it would be need to glide around the room in the dress and mask. There were a few of those at RAW. One of my favorite costumes was a lady in highland garb and armored to the teeth in knives and swords. I had to look twice to make sure it wasn't Cassondra. Now that would be a challenge - how would you attire the banditas for a costume ball?

Donna MacMeans said...

Marilyn - California MUST have reader conferences somewhere, sunshine and romantic fantasy just naturally seem to go together. Is Portland Oregon convienent for you? If so, check out for the details of the 2009 bash. It's much less expensive than RT and gives you far more opportunity to chat & party with the authors.

Donna MacMeans said...

Tanks for the dates, PJ, I've notted them in my 2009 calendar (and isn't it a shame that we need to have 2009 calendars in like June of 2008!) - are you planning on going to the Portland CR?

Terry Odell said...

Donna: I'm going to be part of a panel on writing mysteries, and also one of a number of authors hosting a breakfast soiree (no costumes requied, but I think it's poolside). Definitely come find me! And easier than at the huge bashes.

Maria Lokken said...

Oh - this sounds like too much fun! I'm going to check our 2009 calendar, because I would love to go to a reader's conference.

As for a costume, I think I'd wear an early Coco Channel - and pretend I was a designer. I loved her early clothes. Of course it would be slacks - I simply don't show my legs anymore.

jo robertson said...

Wow, Donna, RAW sounds SUPER!! I've never been to a readers event and it does look exciting to be among your favorite authors, getting to know them better. I like that the event is (relatively) small.

Your mask and hat look darlingly sophisticated, dahling!

Ah ha, I see AC's back and won the rooster right off the bat. Shoulda known, grumble, grumble.

jo robertson said...

Oh, and as for costumes, I'd love to be Cleopatra. I've always wondered what she had that kept two of the most powerful men in the world interested in her. Hmmm.

Donna MacMeans said...

Terry -

I'll probably miss the panel, but I never miss the food! I'm making a note and, in the words of Daniel Day-Lewis, I will find you.

Donna MacMeans said...

Maria - smart girl on the slacks. I'm not sure I prefer them due to the state of my legs - twenty five years of aerobics does offer rewards - but slacks are just so much easier when dancing. See - it all comes down to dancing *g*. Can't help it - I hear the music and my feet want to move.

Hope you make it to a reader conference. I think you'll have a ball. Can't get much better than spending a weekend with people that love to read romance.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Jo! I never went to a reader's conference until I had a book to sell, but then I've done a lot of foolish things in my time *g*. Go to a reader's conference before you sell so you can experience what a "real" reader wants. It doesn't hurt to get a peek at some of the promotion ideas before publication as well. Plus there's always the lure of chatting with fellow writers in a casual environment. It's fun - no doubt about it.

Cleopatra - sex appeal. I think the HBO ROME series did a great job of portraying her sensuality. She was a smart cookie that knew how to mask her intelligence behind her sexual appeal - I think. You'd make a killer Cleo, Jo!

Cassondra said...

Hey Donna, that readers conference looks like it was fantastic fun!

I've never been to one of those. The dancing sounds fun, though I'd have to come up with some sort of jammies that are wearable in public and that actually match! :0/

And how cool that you got to explore a little of Huntington while you were there. I've only driven through, never stopped except at the Starbucks! (and yes, I know where they ALL are in Huntington--at least the ones along the interstate.)

Leah said...

I've been to the Lori Foster event for the last two years and I loved it! I hope to make it a yearly trip.

When I went to RWA in 2006 I was amazed and thrilled at the number of authors at the signings and the authors, booksellers, librarians, etc that were there to get their books and autographs.

I love this industry because of the way people support each other!


Cassondra said...

Donna said:

One of my favorite costumes was a lady in highland garb and armored to the teeth in knives and swords. I had to look twice to make sure it wasn't Cassondra.

Alas, not me. But that would be a fun costume, and I'd have most of the stuff here already. Even my own tartan. I was trying to figure out what sort of costume I'd use if I ever had to create a costume again. Haven't done that in many years.

Louisa Cornell said...

Welcome back Aunty!! The GR has obviously missed you!

Donna, it looks like you had a ball! AND my hometown writers' group is planning a road trip to the RT Convention this year!! Three of the six in our group are lawyers in the State's Attorney's office and when I mentioned male cover models it was on!!

We will definitely be doing the costume thing. As I accidentally kept pieces of some of my favorite opera costumes I have a good start on it.

A readers' luncheon got me back into writing a couple of years ago. Our library fund raiser that year had a mix of romance and mystery authors in attendance. Diana Love Snell and JoAnn Ross were so enthusiastic and encouraging that I decided to give it a try. Then I attended the readers' luncheon in Birmingham and met Karen Hawkins and Lyn Stone. I have attended a number of conferences and readers' events since and I always have a great time!

The raffle baskets and tote bags are always a big hit. Especially the themed ones.

I would encourage organizers to be sure that all of an authors' books be offered at the signings if possible. (I realize some are out of print.)

The library fundraiser we do now is a readers' luncheon for mystery authors - Murder on the Menu - and the authors eat before the guests and then spend a certain amount of time at each table so the readers get to meet as many authors as possible before the signing.

And I like to see articles in the paper before and after the event! Publicity is a great idea before the event and especially after as it is an advertisement for next year!

terrio said...

I've been lucky enough to attend some small booksignings and some mass booksignings in the last couple of years. Meeting authors is always the best time. I didn't know about this one and Huntington really isn't that far from me. Might have to check into this for next year.

Congrats on the GR and welcome back, AC! Can't believe it's almost exactly a week!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Morning everyone! (Yes, it's still morning here on the Left Coast)

Missed you all! But of course, the cruise was fantastically fun and relaxing. The GR is a bit miffed at me because I threw him out of my luggage at the last minute. :-P So he is skulking around here at the moment, no doubt looking to get into mischief. Little does he know that I have LAUNDRY DUTY planned for him very soon... MWAHAHAHAHA!

GLAD to be home and only 7 MORE DAYS til TWS is launched!!!!

Donna MacMeans said...

Cassondra - I'm pretty sure this lady's swords and knives were fake - but on you...I wouldn't be so sure *g*. I'll have to work on getting you to come to Cincinnati to Lori Foster's event the first weekend in June (mark it on the calendar). No costumes or bands at that event -- but I know where the bars are. Banditas will dance!

Donna MacMeans said...

Yay Leah! I'll be at Lori's again in 2009, it's a fun event.

I was surprised by the number of readers that brought me the Rhapsody bookclub editions of my books to be signed. Those ligger books give lots of room for signatures!

One thing that I thought was neat (but I didn't think to do) was to take the event tote bags around to collect signatures. I made a note to be sure to pack sharpies in my signing bag just for this purpose.
I was stamping bags with my corset stamp that apparently impressed J.R. Ward (Hey, I impressed J.R.Ward!). She said she'd have to find a dagger stamp.

PJ said...

Donna, I'd love to attend CR next year but Portland is a long (and expensive) way from South Carolina so I don't think I'll be going again until it moves a little closer to me. I am saving my pennies for Nationals in DC!

PJ said...

AC, I'm anxiously awaiting the release of TWS! I accosted the book rep at Walmart today to find out what time she'll be stocking the shelves next Tuesday. Can't wait! (grin)

Gannon Carr said...

I doubt I'll be making the trip to Portland for CR. Like PJ, I'm saving my $$ for RWA in DC next summer! Plus, that's much closer for me....and I can drive! Just think of all the schwag I can haul back home and not have to worry about paying for extra luggage on a plane. :)

Donna MacMeans said...

Louisa - How fun! Looking forward to seeing you at RT in Orlando. Snork on the ladies in the Attorney General's office. Driving makes a whole lot of sense when you're packing costumes -and I bet yours will be wonderful.

Yes, conferences are fantastic for motiving you to follow a dream. The entire romance industry is just so giving. I agree that publicity can really make an event - but a lot of that depends on volunteers. Sometimes you get good ones, sometimes not so much. Still, some of the best events are of an intimate nature where you don't have to worry about crowds.

Donna MacMeans said...

Terrio - Put it on your calendar to check into about May or June. Lora Leigh is planning to expand the event to incorporate more readers next year, but the space sells out quickly, so check early. I think it may be scheduled for the last weekend in August 2009 but can't guarantee that.

Donna MacMeans said...

Cindy - seven days till launch!! It seems like it's been forever, I've been waiting so long for this book.

You, my dear, should check out Celebrate Romance as it's in your neck of the woods in 2009. Go to

Donna MacMeans said...

PJ & Gannon - I SO understand the cost thing. Besides, a lot more banditas will be in DC *g*.

Gannon - driving makes a lot of sense. I may do the same. My luggage was over the limit coming back from San Francisco and I'd already shipped a full box of books home! Parking can be expensive but it's so nice having that extra space.

Kate Carlisle said...

Donna, it looks like you had a great time!! I've never been but I'm looking forward to attending events like this one in the very near future! Not sure how I'll come up with a glamorous, sexy costume, though. I was always the kid who dressed like a psycho for Halloween. LOL

Welcome home, Aunty!!! Can't wait for TWS!! Another launch party is just around the corner! Woohoo! :-)

PJ said...

Being able to drive is so much better, imo. I'm only 2 hours from Atlanta so I'll be driving to Moonlight & Magnolias next weekend and also plan to drive to DC next summer. I'm rubbing my hands in glee at the thought of all the goodies I'll be able to bring home!

catslady said...

I've always wanted to go but alas it hasn't happened. I was to go last year but the person going with me backed out at the last moment and that ended that.

Donna MacMeans said...

Kate - You're going to have so much fun. There's lots of mystery gatherings as well as romance. I know your biliophile books will be a hit.

Donna MacMeans said...

PJ -

When you drive there's no limit on the books you can bring home!!! Have fun at Moonlight & Magnolias. That's a conference I'd like to attend as well. Please scream for me if Mrs. Brimley should win. She's a finalist.

Donna MacMeans said...

Catslady -

Bummer on the friend. Only one solution - you need to get out there and hook up with more romance readers so you have more than one possible means of getting to the conference. LOL. Seriously, I know you'll make it to one of the regional conferences and then you'll have a ball.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Oh, I wished I had known, I actually would have made the trip to Huntington.
I have never been but it does sound like loads of fun.
I would wear a black full dress and fangs :-)

Donna MacMeans said...

Dianna - Mark your calendar for 2009 as Lora Leigh says she's doing this again, Check her website about May or June because it closed out early in 2008. However, she plans to increase the capacity to handle a lot more readers and a few more writers. It would be great to meet you there (and many I can convince some of the other banditas to come as well).

Dina said...

Aw Donna, thanks, I've had a sukcky day at work and you made me smile. :)

My dress was low in front, too low for me, so had to watch when bedning over, l but it was wide at the waist and I had no trouble dancing.

Donna MacMeans said...

And the winner is ... Jane.

Jane - Go to my website at and send me your contact information, and I'll mail out the 2008 Raw tote bag and Tshirt.

Thanks everyone - hope to see you all at a reader event soon!

limecello said...

Wow - sounds like you had a GREAT time! I loved the pictures and descriptions. For a readers event - no, never been to one, but I'd love to go to Lori Foster or Lora Leigh's - I've heard such fantastic things about them.
For a costume/the masquerade... I've never been much into them since... ever- but I think a really fun masquerade one would be a classical/Roman outfit. Women wore so many more complex things than tunics/togas (which actually they didn't even wear...) - and it could lend itself to such creative masks too! That and it's relatively simple to make a stola and palla.

Jennifer A. Ray said...

Hi Donna! It was great meeting you at RAW this year!